Lemon Drop Kid Wins Woodward Stretch Duel
Photo: Associated Press / NYRA / Adam Coglianese
Lemon Drop Kid (5), ridden by Edgar Prado, prevails by a head to capture the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park Saturday for his fourth-straight victory. Behrens, right, was second.
Behrens, Skimming, and Lemon Drop Kid arrived at the top of the stretch three across the track, before Behrens, on the inside, and Lemon Drop Kid engaged in a stretch-long duel won by the latter in the $500,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Saturday at Belmont. Under Edgar Prado, Lemon Drop Kid completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.53 over a fast track, finishing a head in front of Behrens. The Woodward marks the third time that 6-year-old Behrens has narrowly lost a grade I. Last year, he finished a nose behind Victory Gallop in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I), and in 1997 he lost the Travers Stakes (gr. I) to Deputy Commander by the same margin.

Ecton Park led at the start, but Skimming quickly assumed the lead, racing a 1/4 mile in :23.15. Behrens became the third leader and raced along the rail through a 1/2 mile in :46.27, with Skimming a head back, and Lemon Drop Kid moving up while four paths off the rail. Lemon Drop Kid put his head in front of Behrens after six furlongs in 1:10.87, with Skimming another head back in third. Skimming, in between horses, began to tire as Behrens and Lemon Drop Kid pulled away, remaining heads apart to the wire. Gander finished third, 3/4 lengths behind Behrens, followed by Skimming and Ecton Park.

"I decided to keep him to the outside, because I didn't want to get caught in traffic," said Prado. "I was a bit surprised to see so many people going after Skimming early on, but I had a good spot off the speed. I saw Behrens on the inside moving into the far turn, and at the half-mile pole, I asked my horse to move up because I didn't want Behrens to get away."

Lemon Drop Kid was sent off as the odds-on favorite and returned $3.40, $2.20, and $2.10. Behrens, the third wagering choice at just over 3-1, paid $2.90 and $2.10. 41-1 longshot Gander paid $2.10 to show. The winning exacta combination returned $7.50.

Lemon Drop Kid (Kingmambo--Charming Lassie, by Seattle Slew) earned $300,000 for the win, his 10th in 22 starts. After an awkward start to his racing year which saw him disqualified from a win in the Widener Handicap (gr. III) and dead heat for a win in an Aqueduct allowance race, the 4-year-old then finished third in the Pimlico Special (gr. I) in May. Equipped with blinkers for the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II), Lemon Drop Kid drew off to a 7 1/4-length win. He followed that with wins in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) and the Whitney Handicap (gr. I). The Flint Schulhofer trainee won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and Travers Stakes (gr. I) as a sophomore, after winning the Futurity (gr. I) at Belmont as a juvenile. Lemon Drop Kid was bred in Kentucky by William S. Farish and William S. Kilroy and is owned by Jeanne G. Vance.

"In my mind, he's the Horse of the Year," said Schulhofer. "But he'll do whatever it takes to get it. If he's got to win two more races, he will."

Next up for Lemon Drop Kid is the $1-million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) on Oct. 14th at Belmont, followed by the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr.I). (Chart, Equibase)

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